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How to choose insurance that is right for you. A guide for Colorado consumers

Quick Insurance Links

Enforcement

What types of common insurance are needed?
Which types of insurance are required -- and which are recommended?
What factors should I consider before I purchase any insurance?

One step at a time. Choosing insurance doesn't have to be a daunting task - use our consumer tips pages to get educated before you buy.

There are many choices to consider when selecting insurance, including:

  • the type of insurance you need,coverage limits,
  • benefits offered and if they meet your needs,
  • special riders or options that are unique to your situation,
  • premium costs,
  • the company and its reputation, and,
  • the number of complaints a company has received, in comparison to other companies of similar size.

Isit a good fit? Consider your ultimate goals when purchasing insurance to be sure the policy offers the coverage you want and fits your needs.


Resources and Tools
The Colorado Division of Insurance offers many resources to help you understand insurance options, to compare companies’ customer service and rates,
and to learn about types of coverage offered in various lines of insurance.

Rates and Forms

The Division of Insurance provides a rates and forms report search that allows anyone to obtain and compare information on current insurance rates.

All insurance companies licensed in Colorado must provide information on their rates and the forms they use in their policies to the Colorado Division of Insurance. The rate summary is required to be posted on the Division of Insurance website.

Health Care Reform

There are many changes occurring due to national health care reform.

Keep up on the latest developments - and how these changes could affect you.

 

 

Complaint Index / Complaint Ratios Report

When a consumer files a written complaint with the Division of Insurance, the allegations are investigated by consumer analysts on staff and the insurance company is given an opportunity to respond to the complaint. Many complaints can be resolved with communication between the consumer and the agent or company.
Some complaints require the intervention of the Division of Insurance for resolution. After each complaint is closed, the complaint and its resolution is tracked, including whether the consumer prevailed in any part of the complaint (confirmed complaints.)

The recording of written complaints and their resolution allows the Division of Insurance to provide a comparative list showing the number of confirmed complaints against a company in relation to the amount of business the company has in Colorado. Consumers are urged to view a company's complaint index and/or complaint ratio report to determine whether the type and number of complaints the company received is acceptable.

Larger companies will typically have more complaints than smaller companies, so seeing the amount of business a company does in Colorado allows the consumer to compare the percentage of other consumers who filed complaints against a company, regardless of company size.

Tell it like it is.

Consumers can file a written complaint when an insurance company doesn’t fulfill expectations. Written complaints may be completed on-line, by fax, or by U.S. Mail. The situation will be analyzed to see if the company followed Colorado law. Consumer complaints are reviewed and tracked, and a company’s complaint statistics can be viewed on the Division of Insurance website. Complaint ratios are created by compiling reports on the number of complaints, and confirmed complaints made against a particular company.

Health insurance Nobody can predict how long a person will stay healthy and avoid all accidents and injuries.

Having health insurance means if you or an insured family member have serious medical costs, you will have assistance in paying them through your insurance. In certain situations, health insurance can be required. For example, colleges and universities often require students to purchase health insurance or to prove that they carry private health insurance. 

picture of a telephone with word

Discount Health Plans and Discount Medical Cards Technically, these are not insurance so the Division of Insurance does not regulate these plans. However, if the card or plan is represented as an "insurance" plan, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Division. Be aware that state laws protecting buyers of insurance will not protect people who buy Discount Health Plans or Discount Medical Cards.

Be sure the health plan you select provides the coverage you need. Some consumers have been fooled into purchasing "health plans" that are not insurance and do not provide the coverage needed when there is a medical crisis or health event. 

Check first:
Don’t learn the hard way. Certain products, such as “Discount Health Plans” may not provide the benefits you expect when you need them most.

 

If you have questions about a health benefit plan or health “discount” plan, find out if the company is registered to sell insurance in Colorado before you agree to the policy or make a payment. If it’s not really health insurance, you may be out of luck when you need medical help and file a claim.

 

CoverColorado – State Health Insurance program for people who are otherwise not insurable

CoverColorado is a non-profit entity created by the Colorado Legislature to provide medical insurance for eligible Colorado residents who, because of a pre-existing medical condition, are unable to get coverage from private insurers.
CoverColorado also serves as the state’s plan for individuals who are eligible under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA.

Senior Health. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, within the Colorado Division of Insurance, helps people enrolled in Medicare with questions about health insurance. Topics addressed by the program include Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap), Medicare HMOs, Medicaid assistance for people on Medicare, and long-term care insurance.  

Auto insurance. (Required.) You must have car insurance if you own and drive a car. If you are driving a car you do not own, you must be sure it is insured and you are covered, either by your own policy or by the owner, in some cases.

Colorado law requires you have at least the minimum of $25,000 per person bodily injury / $50,000 per accident bodily injury and $15,000 property damage liability. If you have a loan on your vehicle your lender will also require you carry comprehensive and collision coverage which insures the lender’s interest in the vehicle. 

Medical Payments coverage of Med-Pay (Mandatory Offer/Recommended.)
As of Jan. 1, 2009, Med-Pay is a required part of every automobile insurance policy issued or renewed in Colorado.

Picture of car key on insurance policy

Consumers have the option of “opting out” which means they can state in writing they do not want the additional medical coverage as part of their automobile insurance. Although each consumer must make the decision, Med-Pay is recommended for those individuals who do not have the financial resources to pay the immediate medical costs often associated with a car accident.
 
GAP Insurance (Guaranteed Asset Protection) pays the difference between the loan amount and the market value of the car.  As soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it typically depreciates in value. If your car is totaled and there is a difference between the value of the vehicle and the loan amount, gap insurance pays the difference subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.  Typically, financed GAP coverage will not pay for the amount of the loan that may have been rolled over from a previous loan.  For example, if you trade in your vehicle with a loan balance and roll that loan balance in to a new loan the GAP coverage may not cover that amount rolled over.

Umbrella Liability Coverage. Personal umbrella liability insurance is designed to protect against a catastrophic lawsuit or judgment. It provides expanded coverage and increases the amount of your liability protection beyond the basic coverage provided under auto insurance, homeowners and/or renters policies.

An umbrella policy kicks in when the limit is reached on the underlying liability coverage in your homeowners, renters, condominium or automobile policy. In addition to offering financial protection for events such as personal injury, either on your property or when caused by your vehicle, an umbrella policy may also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is extra insurance that most lenders require as part of a contract to purchase a home. Homeowners who obtain loans that are more than 80 percent of their new home’s value to protect financial institutions must purchase private mortgage insurance as part of the loan contract.

PMI allows individuals to purchase a home with less than a 20 percent down payment.  Private mortgage insurance protects the lender (not the buyer), if the buyer defaults on the loan.

Title Insurance.  When a house, building or other property is bought and sold, all the parties involved want to be sure the “title” or transfer of ownership is clear. Title insurance protects the owner and the lender against loss arising from problems connected to the title to the property. 

Flood insurance is not included in typical homeowners  insurance and must be purchased separately.

Homeowners insurance (dwellings and structures) insures your real and personal property if you own a house, townhouse or condominium.  If your property is damaged, insurance will pay for repairs or rebuilding to the terms of your policy, to include your personal items in the home, attached and free standing structures (based on limits in your policy).

Policies will cover typical damage from fire, wind and tornado, or damage from an event such as a tree falling on your house or a truck knocking down a wall. If you own a home and have homeowners insurance, in addition to protection on structures, your personal property is also covered by most homeowners policies up to specified limits. Your homeowners insurance protects your personal belongings: furniture, appliances, televisions and clothing in case of loss or damage.

Insured personal property, subject to the policy terms and conditions, is actually covered anywhere in the world as long as it is owned or used by the policy holder, or covered family members.  Generally there is 10% of total contents coverage limitation when property is at any location other than the insured premises.

Coverage for personal property is limited unless endorsements are bought, so make sure you research and understand what kind of coverage is available to you for your personal property. If you have items of special or unusual value, speak with a representative of your insurance company to see how they can be covered and if there is additional cost. Document and tell your insurance representative about any expensive artwork, jewelry or heirlooms to see if special endorsements are needed.

Contents Insurance
(also known as tenant or renters insurance) to replace your valuables and personal things against loss. (Recommended, not required.) You can purchase a separate policy for your valuables if you are a renter or college student without coverage. If your items are damaged or stolen, this “renters” or “contents” insurance pays to replace or fix your insured valuables and belongings.

Rental property insurance
is a different type of coverage for landlords.
Owners of rental property may purchase dwelling coverage for the property under a personal dwelling fire policy. If you own several rental properties, an insurer may issue a business owners policy for these properties.  This coverage, subject to the terms and conditions, provides similar coverage as homeowners; however there is no coverage, or may be limited coverage, for personal property because it is non-owner occupied.

Picture of family with sold sign

 In addition to the insurance listed above, some professionals and businesses are required to carry certain types of insurance.

Here are some examples:

- many professionals, including doctors, attorneys, and building contractors are required to carry professional liability insurance;

- individual mortgage brokers doing business within the state of Colorado are required to carry liability insurance that includes Errors & Omissions insurance, in addition to other licensing and surety bond requirements;

- most employers are required to carry Workers Compensation insurance;

- business owners should also know requirements for property, liability, and replacement insurance for the specific type of business. In some cases, the insurance is recommended, but not required by law.

Link to information and requirements on starting a business in Colorado.

Specialty Insurance
The insurance industry creates additional types of insurance to meet consumer needs and the changing marketplace. Travel insurance, pet insurance, and credit insurance are all fairly new types of coverage. You must evaluate the premium costs and potential benefits to see if these products will work for your situation.

Types of Insurance Regulated by the Colorado Division of Insurance (partial list)
Accident   •     Annuities      •      Automobile Insurance     •     Bail Bonds  •   Commercial Property     •     Condominium Insurance     •     Credit Insurance        •   Dental Insurance     •     Farm/Crop     •     Fire     •     Pre-Need Funeral Insurance        •    General/Professional Insurance     •     Health/Medical     •     HMO (Health Maintenance Organization)     •     Homeowners     •     Liability     •     Life Insurance    •    Long-Term Care     •    Medicare Supplement  •   Pet Insurance   •   Personal Property Insurance     •     Renters Insurance     •     Title Insurance  •   Travel Insurance     •     Viatical (Third Party Life Insurance)

Types of Insurance which may be regulated, or partially regulated, by another department or agency

Federal Government Health Benefit plans
(for employees of the Federal Government) 

Employer-funded Health Insurance (self-funded or ERISA plans)

Some types of insurance or insurance products are not under state jurisdiction. For example, if you have health insurance through your employer that is self-funded (the employer provides health or disability benefits to employees and assumes the direct risk for payment of claims), this type of insurance is called an ERISA plan and is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Generally, under this type of plan, the employer hires an insurance company to act as a "third-party administrator" for the employer's health care plan, providing claims processing but not accepting any risk.

ERISA plans must still meet certain guidelines, such as detailing how a person appeals a denial of benefits. If you are unsure if you have employer self-funded insurance, ask your employer or call the Colorado Division of Insurance for more information. ERISA exempts self-funded health care plans from state insurance regulation. Therefore, when you need assistance or want to make a complaint about services, you need to contact your human resources department or the U.S. Department of Labor. The Colorado Division of Insurance will be glad to assist you with questions you may have, but may not have jurisdiction over matters we do not regulate.


Check with your company's personnel department if you aren't sure if your health plan is employer-funded. The Division of Insurance can answer questions, but does not have jurisdiction over "self-funded" health plans.

Workers Compensation
Some workers' compensation issues are handled by the Division of Insurance, and others by the Division of Workers Compensation. The
Division of Workers Compensation is part of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. (It is not part of the Division of Insurance, which resides in the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.) Both of these state agencies have some responsibilities for regulating Workers Compensation Insurance in Colorado.

The Division of Insurance oversees licensure of insurers and agents, rating, underwriting, requirements for provision of risk management services, experience modification factor concerns, and data reporting.
The Division of Workers Compensation handles any issues associated with a claim, along with proof of coverage questions or issues regarding who must be covered by workers' compensation.
Please feel free to contact us if you are not certain where your question or complaint should go, and we will make sure you are routed to the correct agency for resolution. 

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Contact

1560 Broadway, Suite 850, Denver, CO 80202 Email
(303) 894-7499 - Phone (800) 930-3745 - Toll Free (303) 894-7455 - Fax